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Taste & Create V: Cranberry Bliss Cupcakes

Posted By Chris On January 12, 2008 @ 12:40 pm In Desserts | 7 Comments

Taste & Create is a food blogging event in which you are randomly paired up with another particpant, and each of you try a recipe from the other’s food blog. For Taste & Create V, We [Heart] Food was paired up with Stephanie from a whisk and a spoon. As soon as the partner list was posted, I rushed to check out what delicious dinner item or side dish I would be preparing for the event. Oops! Turns out Stephanie is big-time into posting delicious looking cakes and sweets, items I’ve never tried making! (I don’t bake.) After perusing the site a bit more, and checking out recipes for both sweet and savory items, I decided to go for broke and chose what I thought was the most delicious-sounding recipe on the site: Cranberry Bliss Cupcakes. The cupcakes are Burnt Butter Brown Sugar, filled with cranberry sauce, and frosted with a white chocolate ganache with dried cranberries and toasted pecans. Sounds delicious, right? With the exception of my overbaking the cupcakes (dry! thank goodness they were filled…) they were very tasty — the frosting was a *big* hit.

I must say that I have a new-found respect for bakers… putting together these cupcakes was a comedy of errors. Here are some things I learned:

Lesson 1: Ingredients really matter in baking! Usually substitute margarine or some other spread for butter? Guess what? “Burnt Butter” needs … butter. Not some oil-based spread. First off, it won’t brown, and secondly, once it melts, it ain’t coming back to a solid any time soon.

Lesson 2: Don’t rush it! I figured I could whip these up before dinner, take the pics, and be done with it. Bzzzzt, wrong. Not only did I have to throw in an extra trip to the store mid-recipe to buy butter (see Lesson 1), my cranberry sauce filling never gelled — why? Instead of letting it cool to room temperature first, I just stuck it right into the fridge after removing it from the pan. Now, this ended up being a happy accident; we just filled the cupcakes with whole cranberries that were soaking in the simple syrup: they made a satisfying liquid explosion when you bit through the cake. Lisa and I both loved that.

Lesson 3: Watch the clock! The yang to the yin of Lesson 2… I left the cupcakes in the oven just a few minutes too long and they ended up pretty dry. I’m used to just being able to eyeball something to check for doneness — in this case I should have just used a timer.

Lesson 4: Essential Baker’s Equipment: A blow-dryer. You read that right! The ganache was nice and fluffy when it only had the cream and white chocolate, but as we added in the soft butter… it broke. In a big way. It turned into what looked like a bowl of cottage cheese — disaster! We tried everything… whipping it more, adding more butter… oy. Nothing worked. We stuck it in the fridge hoping that might firm it up a bit, but when we tried whipping it then, the entire blob ended up stuck INSIDE the whisk, and looked like a frozen block of cottage cheese that was weeping milk. Sad, sad, sad, and ruined… or so I thought. I did some web searches and found others who had the same situation, and someone presented what sounded like a strange fix: Use a blow-dryer to heat both the bowl and the frosting sludge for just a few seconds in each spot while you continue to whisk. Sounded crazy, but we were desperate. I was on whisk duty while Lisa manned the dryer. At first it just seemed to cause the huge glob to separate even more, but after a minute or two… whoa! It’s coming together! And of course, once it reached the right consistency, it stayed that way.

So — in spite of all the “issues” I ran into, I was pretty satisfied with the results, especially with that delicious frosting. The recipe can be found here, for those of you with better baking skills than yours truly.

Lisa says:

Did you tell them you brought these cupcakes to a professional baker?

Chris says:

You just *had* to bring that up… anyway, she was impressed with the frosting, and said that baking is way harder than cooking. Even if it was a lie, it made me feel a little better.

Lisa says:

You’re too hard on yourself. I loved the filling, and she wasn’t lying about the frosting… it ruled! I think if you would have pulled the cupcakes out about 5 minutes sooner they would have been totally fine.

Chris says:

I was wondering what that timer in the kitchen was for…

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